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To Robert:  Still More on John 20:28 and Statistics


Robert, you wrote:


ROBERT: Martin, let's not exaggerate. Jesus is called RABBI numerous times. RABBI is indeclinable - the form is nominative in all cases. Jesus is called HUIOS DAUID in Matthew, though "Son of David" is in the vocative in Mark. In John 13:13, Jesus says his disciples call him "KURIOS," and commends them. Clearly, if there were some sort of distinction between KURIOS and KURIE in terms of address, Jesus would have said so here. The terms are semantically transparent - KURIOS *may* reflect somewhat more elevated or formal diction, but there is no difference in meaning or referent. Harris sees KURIOS in John 13:13 as a nominative of address, and it is certainly possible to see it that way, given that Jesus is repeating what this disciples called him.


MS:  Hey, no fair! you know what I meant, remember, you are supposed to be reading my mind. We have been discussing elevated titles that speak to lordship or godship, remember. But since you brought it up, Joseph was called hUIOS DAUID at a Matt 1:20 :)    


ROBERT: Rev 4:11 demonstrates that the elders are comfortable addressing their God with the nominative of address, just as is Thomas. Of course, your statistics - as you cast them - indicate that 96% of the time, Jews addressed their God with a form of the vocative, so I guess we should conclude that the Father is NOT being addressed in Rev 4:11, based on your logic? (If you did, I would point out that here LEGONTES serves the same function as EIPEN AUTWi).


MS:  Maybe I should have expressed this as follows: "The Father is given the full range and breadth of expression with respects to being addressed as KURIOS/KURIE and QEOS/QEE as well as having these terms amplified with hO PANTOKRATWR while being combined with the more elevated composite term KURIE hO QEOS. This pattern continues even after Jesus is resurrected and in the company of hO PANTOKRATWR as can be seen in the book of Revelation where he continues at all times to be distinguished from hO QEOS."


ROBERT: This "fact" favors no such thing, Martin. An exclamation "similar" to Kaz's would be blasphemy, unless Kaz were directing the "my God" statement to his God. Second Commandment and all that. You might say that Thomas was being reverent and making a prayerful exclamation, but this argument is easily surmounted by the words John uses to describe the entire CONVERSATION taking place between Thomas and Jesus. There is a clear exchange of statements and responses: "He said to Thomas...Thomas answered and said to him...Jesus said to him."


MS:  I disagree that QEOS must refer to hO QEOS here. It is more likely that it refers to hO LOGOS based on two considerations. The MOU qualifies the articular QEOS and Thomas was directly told in a prior conversation with hO KURIOS MOU that he should believe both in him and God. (John 14:1) Then he tells Thomas that he is the way to the Father. (John 14:6) The confession that Thomas makes would naturally include both the Father and the Son. 

He used it to the _Father_ because only the _Father_ receives the whole depth and breadth of superlative titles in Scripture.

It is more important WHAT a writer is trying to say than how he says it. The phrase is an exclamation which fits all of Wallace's criteria for an exclamation and he indeed sees it that way, albeit in more nuanced way.  Because an exclamation does not have a verb and it uttered with emotion and spontaneity it should come as no great surprise that is is an enigmatic expression. A good writer would then explain in the narrative exactly what was meant by the phrase. John did this in the very verse that followed Jesus' response to this exclamation. The only way John could have made it any clearer would have been to INTERRUPT the conversation and insert it as a parenthetical expression. However, in my view, reasonable persons will not try to rip this explanation (20:31) from the context. If Thomas indeed did just call Jesus God and come to realize that Jesus was God, 20:31 is very much out of place and an anti-climax!


ROBERT: What do you mean by "never been used before?" Certainly you don't dispute that KURIOS and THEOS are both applied to Jesus previously in John's gospel (though not in forms of address). Jesus commends the disciples for calling him "KURIOS" in John 13:13. 


MS:  Come on, Robert, you can do better than that :) The word is not used of Jesus by the disciples in a way that helps you at all. Of course when they refer to Jesus in dialogue with others and not in direct address they would need to use the nominative, but this is not the nominative of address! See John 11:28 "And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is here [hO DIDASKALOS PARESTIN], and is calling for you." (NAS) I also cannot find any example in the GNT where DIDASKALOS is used with the meaning of DIDASKALE. (vocative)

ROBERT:  We also must consider whether Thomas was familiar with Ps 35:23 (34:32 LXX): "HO THEOS MOU KAI HO KURIOS MOU." Thomas may well have been alluding to it, if not actually quoting it. John certainly would have no problems writing a quotation from Thomas applying a verse in the OT to Jesus; he was probably aware that Paul had done so on several occasions, as he had himself with "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" in Revelation.


MS:  If he did, he reversed the order! In this particular verse it comes as no surprise that the KURIOS that follows QEOS maintains the nominative by attraction to it. In addition, Psalm 35:23 does not fit the profile of an exclamation.

MS: In addition, most of these occur in Revelation which is known for having non-standard Greek in the first place. Some might even eliminate Revelation from the statistics on that basis alone. In Revelation (the only book that uses QEOS in a direct address, to the Father) we find KURIE hO QEOS hO PANTOKRATWR used 3 times and one time as hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS HMWN.

Sometimes in order to analyze what a writer said it is often necessary to determine HOW he could have said it using a different phrase. This is particularly applicable here when one considers that if Thomas had answered and said to Jesus KURIE hO QEOS MOU we would not be having this discussion at all! This is because when one looks at the statistics using only the NT it becomes clear that when someone is being addressed with a divine title that contains both KURIOS and QEOS (leaving out John 20:28) the odds are in favor 3 to 1 that KURIE hO QEOS would be used. This latter phrase also has the distinction of combining the form of KURIOS used exclusively used for direct address to Jesus by the disciples with QEOS in a way that makes the phrase completely unambiguous. The other way that this text could have been expressed is found also in the book of John with an expression by Nathanael at John 1:49 where he prefaces his statement with SU EI (you are) as in "you are the Son of God" (cf John 20:31).


ROBERT: Of course we would be having this discussion, because you would deny that Thomas is calling Jesus his God, regardless of the language used to express that idea. You have admitted that Rev 4:11 is a parallel phrase, directed to the Father. Since all examples of KURIE hO THEOS are also directed to the Father, you would argue that this is the case here as well - just as you are now! To say otherwise is simply disingenuous, Martin. It does prove a vital point, though, and that is that your counter-example is not a counter-example at all.


MS:  The KURIE hO QEOS is actually a stronger and less ambiguous term, amplified if you will It has hO QEOS in apposition to KURIE which is an even stronger way to call the Lord, God that an predicate nominative as in KURIOS ESTIN hO QEOS is saying something about the Lord, while KURIE hO QEOS combines the two terms into one title. And you fail to address the hO PANTOKRATWR which elevates this already exalted title. My counter example stands.

Since I see you approvingly quote Harris below, I'd like to point out what his view is with respect to QEOS both in the NT and the OT. He unequivocally says that it refers to the Father.


Murray J. Harris in "Jesus as God," page 47 says, "When (hO) QEOS is used, we are to assume that the NT writers have hO PATHR in mind unless the context makes this sense of (hO) QEOS impossible (fn 112):


112. A related question demands brief treatment. To whom did the NT writers attribute the divine action described in the OT? To answer "the Lord God" (YHWH elohim) = LXX KURIOS hO QEOS) is to beg the question, for the authors of the NT wrote of OT events in the light of their Trinitarian understanding of God. A clear distinction must be drawn between what the OT text meant to its authors and readers and how it was understood by the early Christians who lived after the advent of the Messiah and the coming of the Spirit. Certainly the person who projects the Trinitarian teaching of the NT back into the OT and reads the OT through the spectacles of the dynamic or Trinitarian monotheism of the NT is thinking anachronistically. On the other hand, it does not seem illegitimate to pose a question such as this" To whom was the author of Hebrews referring when he said (1:1), "At many times and in various ways God spoke in the past to our forefathers through the prophets"? That it was not the Holy Spirit in any ultimate sense is evident from the fact that in neither the OT nor the NT is the Spirit called "God" expressis verbis. And, in spite of the fact the LXX that the LXX equivalent of YHWH, viz., KURIOS, is regularly applied to Jesus in the NT so that it becomes less a title than a proper name, it is not possible that hO QEOS  in Heb. 1:1 denotes Jesus Christ. for the same sentence (in Greek) contains "(the God who spoke...) in these last days has spoken to us in a Son (EN hUIW)." Since the author is emphasizing the continuity of of the two phases of divine speech (hO QEOS LALHSHS... ELALHSEN), this reference to a Son shows that the one who speaks in both eras and hUIOS as his final means of speaking shows that in the author's mind it was not the Triune God of Christian theology who spoke to the forefathers by the prophets. That is to say, for the author of Hebrews (as for all NT writers, one may suggest) "the God of our fathers," Yahweh, was no other than "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (compare Acts 2:30 and 2:33; 3:13 and 3:18; 3:25 and 3:26; note also 5:30). Such a conclusion is entirely consistent with the regular NT usage of hO QEOS. It would be inappropriate for elohim or YHWH ever to refer to the Trinity in the OT when in the NT QEOS regularly refers to the Father alone and apparently never to the Trinity.


ROBERT: I've already addressed SU EI in a previous post. I've also provided examples of how John could have made clear that Thomas was praising the Father while addressing Jesus, as you have suggested, which also would mean that we would not be having this discussion now, had he written one of them.


MS:  So I see. You said:
"We don't need to insert SU EI into this verse to understand it's meaning, any more than we would need to in all the other 135 occurrences of "my God" in the Scriptures. In fact, I'm unaware of any of them that use such language."

I decided to do some statistics on the subject of QEOS MOU in the Greek. In the NT there are 13 occurrences. 12/13 occurrences have a reference to the Father or distinguish God from Jesus in the immediate context; 5/13 are a reference to the God of Jesus. 1/13 distinguishes between Jesus and God in near context (same chapter). 2/13 are used in direct address. (John 20:28 is excluded from the analysis)


Because I combined the MT and the LXX I came up with 146 instances of "My God". Of those, 52/146 (36%) are clear instances of direct address using "My God." 45/52 (86%) are instances of direct address where the phrase is a predicate nominative in apposition to a personal pronoun like SU (you), frequently with EIMI. For example expressions using EI SU are common like:
Psalm 89:26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, My God, [LXX, PATHR MOU EI SU QEOS MOU] and the rock of my salvation. (ASV)
In all of these, EIPEN is found only once, APOKRINOMAI and AUTWi are not found at all in direct address in the OT.


ROBERT: Well, no matter who wrote the footnote and no matter what Wallace's input was, it certainly doesn't pertain to the vocative vs. nominative of address, which is what we were discussing. You don't dispute what the author of the footnote says about the use of KURIOS for YHWH and THEOS for ELOHIM in the LXX, do you?


MS:  Yes, see Murray Harris quote above!

Wallace says : "The nominative substantive is used in an exclamation without any grammatical connection to the rest of the sentence ... The keys to identifying a nominative of exclamation are: (1) the lack of a verb (though one may be implied), (2) the obvious emotion of the author, and (3) the necessity of an exclamation point in translation." (Wallace 59-60)

To me this means that Wallace sees the exclamation for what it is. Do you consider this to be an exclamation as well?

Interestingly, of the instances of QEOS used as vocative, both the LXX and the GNT have almost the exact same percentage, about 20%. In addition the use of KURIOS as vocative is exceedingly rare in both as well. I found one example of both KURIOS and QEOS used together in Stafford's Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, page 353. The reason I missed it is that BibleWorks had not tagged either the QEOS or KURIOS in that verse as vocative.


ROBERT: I'll address your last point first. Your argument here is that if the Greek is translated from the Aramaic, we can draw no conclusions about the nominative vs the vocative? Is that right? OK, what language was Thomas speaking in, Martin?


MS:  No, my point is that it is only one example and it seemed to me that you were making a broad general statement based on one example alone.


ROBERT: Harris quotes several scholars who see John's use of hO KURIOS owing something to the Semitic vocative (_Jesus as God_, p. 108).


MS:  I enjoy some of the points Harris makes!


ROBERT: With regard to examples, I wonder how carefully you read my posts, Martin. I said that Robertson had listed a number of examples, and I provided the reference to his big grammar. Compare the parallel accounts of the woman who reached out and touched the hem of Jesus' garment (Matt 9:22; Mk 5:34; Luke 8:48). The noun "daughter" is "thyga'teer" in the nominative sing (eta in the ending, and penult accented), but "thy'gater" in the vocative (epsilon in the ending, and antepenult accented). Keeping in mind that these are parllel accounts of the same event, and all these writers were inspired, note what happens from once account to the next. In Matthew's account "Thy'gater" is vocative and preceded by the verb "eipen", but in both Mark's and Luke's account the same noun is presented in the nominative "thyga'teer"...even though direct address is presented in all three accounts. This change cannot be accounted for by just a simple change of a single character in the ultima either, for notice that the accent also changes and this could be done only with conscious deliberation.

Direct address (vocative) occurs several times in John's Gospel, sometimes with Jesus using the nominative singular for Father "pateer" (eta in the ultima and also the accent), but at other places using the vocative "pa'ter" (epsilon in the ultima and the accent over the penult). For example in John 12:38, in praying Jesus uses the vocative "pa'ter". Also in John 17:1,5, & 11. But later in John 17, Jesus still in direct address uses the nominative "pateer'", for example in 17:21, 24, & 25. And the same point applies here with regard to the conscious deliberation in the changing of the accent.

Finally, Martin, you really didn't engage my argument that your examples of combined forms in a single passage actually argues for the transparency with which the NT writers viewed the forms with regard to lexis and reference.


MS:  I think I have provide more on this in this post. If not, let me know. There is no doubt that the enigmatic statement that Thomas made is very much without parallels if it indeed is a confession that Jesus is the Lord God.


ROBERT: Look at how you're trying to make your case. You running all over the Bible, trying to show that the plain meaning of APEKRITHE...EIPEN AUTW(i) is not the true meaning of this text. Why don't you just show me grammatically how it's possible that a phrase following EIPEN AUTW(i) is NOT addressed to the referent of AUTW(i). Of course AUTWi is not NEEDED when making an address, Martin. I never said it was. But when it's present, as it is here, it makes it clear to whom the address is directed.


MS:  I think it makes clear to whom the person is speaking, not addressing. Think about it. Jesus taught Thomas to pray to the Father in his name, right? That's what we do. Well, how would you pray to the Father in Jesus' presence? Since Jesus was resurrected Thomas was under obligation to include the Son in his exclamation to the Father, was he not? (cf John 14:11-6).


ROBERT: Martin, please. My argument is based in the meaning of APEKRITHE...EIPEN AUTW(i). I've discussed how AUTW(i) is dative, and means "to him." How is this NOT a grammatical argument? EIPON is a 2nd aorist of lego, and commonly uses the dative in narratives, whether implied or expressed, but not always (cf., John 8:55). So when John follows EIPEN with the dative AUTW(i), he is not merely conforming with grammar, but is using the dative for emphasis: "said TO." All you can prove is that Thomas may have addressed Jesus in a unique way - not that Thomas didn't address Jesus at all. And by "unique," I mean in terms of how Jesus was ADDRESSED, for he was CALLED THEOS and KURIOS, and the nominative of address is precedented by Ps 35:23 (34:23 LXX) and Rev 4:11. Simply because the referent in the two precedents was the Father does not DICTATE that it is the Father here. It may, however, indicate the new role Jesus had taken in Thomas' devotion.


MS:  A new role like mediator for example? As I explained above Thomas would now have greater appreciation that Jesus was the "way" to the Father. (cf John 14:1-6).


ROBERT: No, you didn't articulate the argument, but that is the common Witness belief, is it not? I was responding to two-cents references which you cited, and said that - at best - they demonstrated that an Angel was addressed as Jehovah because (in the view of most Witnesses I've spoken to about this) the angel "represented" Jehovah. You, I thought, were trying to imply that these passages suggested that someone could be addressed while the speaker was directing his comments to another. I don't follow your point about the 'conundrum' at all, as I'm not clear on which passage you're referring to.


ROBERT: No, it is a contextual one, Martin. If Gideon is reported to say, "O Lord!" but we have no indication in the text that he said this TO the angel (who isn't even there!), arguing that he is speaking to the Angel fails to take context into account.


MS:  I was referring to you continued appeal to the use of EIPEN AUTWi, etc. It is not ungrammatical for Thomas to speak to Jesus but address the Father, so you argument MUST not be grammatical. "Contextual" is a catch-all phrase which means something different to everyone. If it is not ungrammatical then your only valid argument based on the Greek text is statistical.


ROBERT: I wouldn't term it a "lack" of the vocative. The vocative is expressed in the nominative, and is signalled by EIPEN AUTW(i). Bibleworks uses Friberg semantic tags, doesn't it? What tag to they assign to KURIOS and THEOS in this verse? Why would the context be "awkward" without AUTW(i)? EIPEN doesn't require the dative, and can stand on it's own just fine. In fact, if John left AUTW(i) out, it might have made your case a bit more secure. Thomas would have simply SAID (to noone in particular, you might plausibly argue) "My Lord and my God." As it stands, the nominative of address is clearly signaled by AUTW(i), and designates to whom the address was directed.


MS:  I am speaking of morphology. My recent analysis of all the instances of QEOS MOU shows that in direct address for a great majority of the time a personal pronoun like SU is used with or without the verb EIMI. This is precisely what John 20:28 is lacking. I just looked at all the examples in the NT where KURIOS and QEOS are used together and tagged as vocative by Friberg and guess what? .... They all have the second personal pronoun SU/SOU/SOI and one has EI in addition. This shows just how unusual John 20:28 would be if it is to be interpreted as you say ... a lonely exception to the rule.


ROBERT: I don't. Of course John's Gospel is written to inspire faith! Thomas' faith seems quite clearly stated. He realizes who Jesus is: God to him!
The word PISTEUW links John 20:31 to the conversation Thomas was having with Jesus when he addressed the Father as QEOS.


MS:  Although I can see what I wrote was ambiguous, I meant that in this scenario, the exclamation of KURIOS was meant for Jesus while the exclamation of hO QEOS MOU! was meant for the Father. Of course, we know that Thomas spoke the words AUTWi (to Jesus) and that his exclamation en toto was of course an ANSWER or acknowledgement to Jesus that he had in fact been weak in faith but now he was totally convinced.


ROBERT: So, if my count is correct, you now have posited 4 explanations for Thomas' words, all designed to deny it's clear meaning: 1) Thomas is speaking to Jesus, but addressing God. 2) Thomas is making a prayerful exclamation. 3) Thomas is calling Jesus his God, but not in an absolute sense. 4) Thomas is addressing both Father and Son.


You may not be dogmatic about what the verse means, but you sure seem to be with regard to what it DOESN'T mean! ;-)


Looking at the footnote to the NET bible it appears that this is standard exegetical practice. Actually, I have provided a great more detail recently than has the NET on this subject :)


ROBERT: There is no indication in the words spoken by Thomas nor in Jesus' reply that Thomas is addressing two persons. KAI links the two nouns, and there is no distinguishing reference to Jesus or the Father on either side of it. While KURIE KAI THEOS may be a more common way to join the two nouns, both KURIOS and THEOS, when joined by KAI always refer to the same person (yes, that's a statistical argument). In the two verses that provide the closest parallels (Ps 34:23 LXX and Rev 4:11), one person is in view. Again, there is no difference semantically or referentially between vocative and nominative of address (that's a grammatical argument).


MS:  Thomas was specifically told by Jesus (John 14:1-6) that BOTH the Father and Son were to be his objects of PISTEUW. Also, I know you have been making statistical arguments all along :)


ROBERT: Yes, it is the single most important revelation in scripture, but Jesus predicts that even if one comes back from the dead, the unbelievers will persist in their unbelief. It means that God revealed Himself to us personally, not through a perfect creature, but by coming Himself and 'tenting' among us. In your view, God's self-revelation is imperfect. The Father knows his creatures perfectly, but not even a perfect creature can know God perfectly. Yet, Jesus says he knows the Father "even as" the Father knows Him. In your view, Christ's mediation is imperfect, because while he has memories of his life on earth, he is not now a Man, nor is he God. A perfect mediator is one who is both God and Man. Indeed, unless you are one of the Anointed, Martin, you don't even believe the imperfect mediator is your mediator, do you? How sad, Martin, that God's Eternal Son came and gave his life for you, and is now your advocate with the Father, and you believe He died only to remove the stain of Adam's sin from your life, and that he does not mediate for you, but for only for others who have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, just as you and I.


ROBERT: Harris calls this comment "curious" and I agree. How an exclamation can be "directed to Jesus" but not be addressed to him is quite beyond me. Sounds like having one's cake and eating it, too.


MS:  Notice that neither Harris or Wallace say it is not possible or ungrammatical. As I said before, EVERYTHING we express to the Father is to be done through Jesus. As sinful humans it must be that way.


ROBERT: Yes, the footnote uses the term "exclamation," but it's obvious from the context that the author of the note views that exclamation as being directed to Jesus. "Does not provide an argument against...?" Martin, you know that arguments from silence prove nothing, right? There's no argument there that Thomas is NOT speaking to Jesus, either. So what? I'm not sure Winer "proves" a grammatical possibility at all - he does admit the phrase is "directed to Jesus," regardless of what he means by exclamation. Your quote doesn't prove that Winer thought the "addressee" was the Father, or no one, either! His argument is not based on grammar, but on extra-Biblical uses of the nominative of address as an "exclamation." Finally, even if you have a "grammatical possibility," you need far more that a possibility when faced with the clear meaning of "Answered...and said TO HIM."


MS:  See Rahner below.

MS: Karl Rahner, S.J., Theological Investigations, Vol. i, p. 136 says:
The article in Jn 20:28 is explained by the MOU which normally requires the article before it; by its use with the vocative [case]...and by its presence in the established formula ‘the lord and the god’...It should be further noted that ‘the god of me’, whether it is taken as vocative or nominative, is predicative in sense and so cannot be used as evidence either way to show whether the god in New Testament usage ever appears as subject of a statement referring to Christ.”


ROBERT: You know what Rahner is getting at here, right? He's trying to say that THEOS is not used as the SUBJECT of a sentence in reference to Christ. If Christ is called THEOS predicatively, he's still being called God, Martin. Rahner would have us infer a subject, which can only be "You are" in this case, since Jesus is the one spoken to.


MS:  He states his reason for quoting the grammar. He ways it CANNOT be used as EVIDENCE that "the god" refers to Christ. This means that in his view it cannot be used as proof that Thomas called Jesus the Almighty God.


ROBERT: You avoided my question, Martin. How many Gods does Thomas have?


MS:  There is one true God and Jesus does not exhaust the category of true God for a Trinitarian. My opinion is that Thomas most likely addressed the Father as hO QEOS here. Therefore it is my position that Thomas addressed hO QEOS in His entirety, not merely the second person of hO QEOS. You see, I don't think you realize that in your view Thomas is not addressing 66.667% of hO QEOS! Jesus made it clear at John 20:17 that his God was the God of Thomas and that this was the Father. He did not qualify it as in the Father is the first person of a total of three who are God as you do.


ROBERT: Wallace, I'm sure, would be interested to see the eisegesis you bring to his work, Martin ;-) Nowhere in the quote you provided does Wallace indicate that he sees a "problem" with the Trinitarian interpretation.


MS:  It seems obvious to me that when Wallace cautions against a particular interpretation of the literal meaning in a text like this that has such importance for Christology and which would weaken the Trinitarian interpretation that it is exactly as it seems to me.


ROBERT: He is discussing the aspects of the possessive genitive, and saying that while often it indicates simple possession (Thomas literally says "the hands of me," meaning his hands - the ones that belong to him), there are copious examples where the idea of POSSESSION or OWNERSHIP is not to be pressed. Thus, the Lord is not Thomas' in the sense the He is "fully owned by Thomas." Wallace says that in a "broad sense," Thomas is calling Jesus his God because Jesus "belongs to Thomas now in a way not true before." Thomas doesn't OWN Jesus, but he is now claiming Him as His God as he had not claimed before.


MS:  Yes, but it could also be used to show that MOU limits QEOS here if it is referred to Jesus. It could, for example be a reference to hO LOGOS, and not hO QEOS.


Kind Regards,

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